UC Postpones Inquiry into Bach Society Orchestra

The Undergraduate Council’s Finance Committee decided last month to postpone a planned inquiry into Bach Society Orchestra after the club raised concerns about the committee’s system of due process for adjudicating alleged rule violations.

The Finance Committee revoked funding from Bach Society’s final concert of the year because of a rule that prohibits the UC from funding events that take place during reading period. In response to a Crimson inquiry, UC Finance Committee Chair William A. Greenlaw ’17 found that the dates listed on Bach Society’s grant application did not include the date of the concert itself.

The committee later voted unanimously to open an inquiry into the club, originally set to take place April 27, to determine whether there was sufficient “evidence of dishonesty” to warrant disqualifying Bach Society from receiving future funding.

The vote required the committee to pass the “Violation Adjudication Act of 2016,” which detailed the procedure for conducting a formal inquiry.

However, in an email sent to Greenlaw the day before the scheduled inquiry, Bach Society’s management requested that the inquiry be postponed because the date of the meeting coincided with the orchestra’s rehearsal. Greenlaw supported the request, but because the committee failed to reach a quorum on the scheduled date it was unable to conduct the inquiry regardless.

“If you want to be here and testify, and we tell you you can't testify, that's a blatant disregard for substantive due process,” Greenlaw said.

During the Finance Committee’s meeting on April 27, committee members instead discussed Bach Society’s concerns about due process, and debated whether to reschedule the inquiry this semester or push a decision to the fall.

One concern Bach Society raised involved the wording of the grant application, which asks for the “start date” and “end date” of any project for which clubs apply to receive funding. Bach Society’s statement noted that the UC does not specify what the “end date” of a project is supposed to mean.

“Absent such a provision, any reasonable interpretation consistent with an organization's actual practices can be adopted by an honest, ethical person writing the grant application,” Bach Society’s statement said.

The statement also emphasized that “any legislation or regulations which are pending or which had not yet been passed at the time we submitted our Concert IV grant can have no bearing on the outcome of these proceedings, as we can only be reasonably expected to comply with rules which already existed at the time.”

Greenlaw suggested that he will likely consult professors at the Law School, including Law School Professor and Winthrop Faculty Dean Ronald S. Sullivan Jr., for guidance on crafting a fair inquiry process.

“If we're going to be a just institution, the process to administer justice must be just itself,” Greenlaw said.

Bach Society’s statement also noted that the UC has historically funded reading period events indirectly by “providing funds to the Houses which are used for house formals.” Acknowledging such funding, and also identifying three other events which had inadvertently received funding over reading period, the Finance Committee considered pushing for a change to the reading period rule.

“We are pleased that the UC was responsive to the procedural concerns that we raised privately with them,” Bach Society production manager Juhwan Seo ’17 wrote in an emailed statement to The Crimson.

Some representatives at the last Finance Committee meeting expressed concern over dropping the inquiry, emphasizing the importance of holding student groups accountable for the truthfulness of grant applications.

“We still have the same problem, we're not disincentivizing them from doing this again,” Pforzheimer House Representative Neel Mehta ’18 said.

Greenlaw noted that because any future inquiry would take place after new UC representatives are elected in the fall, next year’s Finance Committee will have to vote to determine whether to move forward with the inquiry.

“If there's enough political will and a benefit to the public trust to doing so, we can re-open an inquiry,” Greenlaw said.

—Staff writer Brian P. Yu can be reached at brian.yu@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @brianyu28.

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